Whole Foods CEO Says Enlighten Business, Enlighten the World

Earlier this week, on monday at eight in the morning pacific time, I was on a conference call with the CEO and Founder of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey.  How often do you get to say that?   I was one of many across the nation listening in, as the call was the beginning of a five-day teleseminar, The Enlightened Business Summit.

Forty pioneers across various industries were brought together to share their insights with an audience that was listening in via phone.  The insights they shared went beyond traditional business ethos, bringing together enlightened values and the bottom line.  The summit is moderated and hosted by Chip Conley, Executive Chairman and Founder or Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a hotel and restaurant company.

John Mackey, kicked off the summit as the first guest speaker, promoting what he refers to as Conscious Capitalism.  Capitalism in general has received a bad reputation as of late.  Visions of greed and selfishness may come to mind at the thought of the word.

However, this conscious understanding and practice of Capitalism is nothing like what the stereotype makes it out to be.  Conscious Capitalism is aware of its ability to create a planet that is ever so fit for all.  It is where profit is not just about profit, but where profit is in line with human prosperity and environmental sustainability.  Conscious Capitalism is about a higher purpose.

Sure there are many things wrong with our current system.  Anyone can give a laundry list of problems with business and “Capitalism” today.  But it is in within our grasps to do something about it.

The beauty of Conscious Capitalism is that you or I (or anyone for that fact) can change the world for the better through entrepreneurship, whether it be ecological entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, or any other type of conscious entrepreneurship.   Michelangelo once said, “criticize by creating.”  If we see something wrong in the business world, we can set out to try and change it by offering an alternative.

That is what Mackey did 30 years ago.  He saw the business of grocery stores not providing enough healthy foods on the shelves, so decided to create an alternative.  That alternative would become the multi-billion dollar national health food store we now know as Whole Foods Market.  Mackey criticised grocery stores by creating grocery stores.

As business folks, perhaps we can do the same?  No, I am not talking about creating another grocery store.  Rather, let’s create a solution to the things that we do criticize.  Actions speak louder than words.

Mackey is only one of many insightful and inspirational speakers from the summit.  While the Enlightened Business Summit goes on through the end of the week, I hope the ideas of Conscious Capitalism and entrepreneurship for a better world permeate beyond towards a sustainable future.

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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